I began and ended my sermon with comments on the recent Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida. (Read a summary of the case here.) This has turned into a big race relations case and from what I read I certainly believe that the initial investigation was inadequate. Once the mainstream media became aware of the case the feeding frenzy began.
Churches and other organisations in communities across the country held rallies supporting a more thorough investigation and the arrest of the shooter. When NBC played the 911 recording of the shooter’s call which sounded as though race was a primary motivation in the shooting the protests gained intensity. HOWEVER, NBC subsequently acknowledged that they had been playing an edited version of the call. Instead of volunteering that Trayvon was black, the shooter made that statement as a direct response to the question “Is he black, white, or hispanic?” (read more here) Now, his statement, “He looks black” could no longer be used to support allegations of racial profiling.
It may well happen that Zimmerman proves to have acted out of racist motivation, but at this point there’s no firm reason for thinking that’s the case.
This episode episode demonstrates the wisdom of James 1:19-20 “Everyone should be slow to speak and slow to become angry, because our anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” More and more frequently the media pushes us to prejudge someone before the trial is completed, or often, before it even begins.
Proverbs 18:13 similarly advises “To answer before listening – that is folly and shame.”
I don’t write this as someone who’s innocent of jumping to conclusions. I personally have a bad habit of responding to the first half a person’s sentence before hearing their complete thought.
In all of this I’m so glad that God describes himself as “Slow to anger” (Ex 34:6). I know I’ll get a full hearing from him. I’m also reminded of 2 Peter 3:9 that God is waiting for “everyone to come to repentance”. God’s first impulse is forgiveness, not anger. Imagine how different our media, and society would be if we all adopted the personality of God: Slow to anger and seeking reasons to forgive, not condemn.
- Do you recall other cases where the media/public condemned someone later found innocent? (Don’t say “Jesus”, that’s too obvious!!)
- How do you feel when God describes himself as “Slow to anger”?